Dalí on de Kooning: ‘The Greatest Painter of America’

De Kooning. (Photo by James Burke/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

One half of John Ashbery’s two-volume Collected French Translations, which were published this month by FSG, comprises a variety of prose writings, which range from Mr. Ashbery’s interpretations of the Surrealist Michel Leiris on Raymond Roussel, the French poet Pierre Martory on Henry James and a complete English version of Pierre Reverdy’s masterful short story “Haunted House,” which includes the following line that is far too excellent to not quote: “Reader, as you read me, don’t you experience a fecund joy as you tell yourself that you are one of the rare beings who can still give yourself, with a modicum of pleasure, to that perilous exercise?” The prose volume and its poetry counterpart are both really quite beautiful (they include jacket designs by Mr. Ashbery himself) and are essential reading for anyone with a fondness for the poet—even just to see a young, doe-eyed Mr. Ashbery posing in a dirty Paris street on the back cover of each volume. Read More


Steak, Schlitz Beer, Hot Butter: Grill Like The New Yorker’s First Art Critic, Murdock Pemberton


The New Yorker‘s first art critic, Murdock Pemberton, was a man of many passions. Besides penning criticism for the magazine and other publications in the 1920s and ’30s, he was also playwright, PR agent and cocktail and food writer for Esquire. His various pursuits are recounted in a wonderful recent book, Portrait of Murdock Pemberton, which was written by his granddaughter Sally Pemberton. Read More


Dave Hickey Is Retiring (Sort Of)

Hickey. (Getty Images)

A year ago, on the eve of his retrospective at the Guggenheim, artist Maurizio Cattelan announced his retirement. Recently, another esteemed figure, the cultural critic, curator, professor and one-time art dealer Dave Hickey, called to let The Observer know that he, too, is taking a step back. Mr. Hickey, winner of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and author of numerous catalogue essays, became well known for his 1993 book The Invisible Dragon (in which he, controversially at the time, championed beauty) and 1997’s Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy, a collection of his writings on a wide range of topics published in the form of his “Simple Hearts” column in the now-defunct magazine Art Issues. In 2001, he curated the biennial exhibition Site Santa Fe. Most recently a professor of criticism in the department of art and art history at the University of New Mexico, he left teaching last year. In the following interview, conducted by phone from Santa Fe, and via e-mail, he explains his reasons for (partly) retiring, why he’s against group shows, contracts and other forms of art-world bureaucracy, why art critics have no power, why art dealing is “the last really honest thing [he's] ever done… the last thing…where you were punished for your mistakes,” why artists should join gangs, and what he’ll be up to next. Read More


Table Talk: Hunting for Murdock Pemberton, the First Art Critic of ‘The New Yorker’

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Portrait of Murdock Pemberton: The New Yorker's First Art Critic

A few years ago, Sally Pemberton was digging around her mother’s house on Long Island when she happened upon a suitcase that belonged to her grandfather, Murdock Pemberton, who had died in 1982 at the age of 94. She popped open the lock and found correspondence with his mistress, letters from artists and gallery brochures that stretched back to before World War II. Intrigued, she continued rummaging and soon found a second suitcase that contained kind letters from Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe. Read More


Critic Roundup: The Barnes Foundation

View from 21st Street. The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. (March 2012) © Tom Crane 2012

The reviews have been streaming in steadily since the opening of the Barnes Foundation, the collection of early modernist masterworks of Dr. Albert C. Barnes, on Saturday at its more centrally located site along Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The building, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, at a cost of $150 million, replicates the galleries of the original structure while expanding its footprint to add new amenities like a central court, a café, a gift shop and an auditorium—a total of 93,000 square feet, compared to the original in Merion, a suburb of Philadelphia, which was only 10,000 square feet. The critics are all over the place on the new building. Here’s a cheat sheet of where some of them stand. Read More


Jed Perl Talks Hilton Kramer

Mr. Kramer.

Jed Perl, the art critic at the New Republic and a contemporary (as well as one time-co-worker) of Hilton Kramer, has an even assessment of the late critic and founder of The New Criterion who passed away in March. He had, Mr. Perl says, two sides–the enthusiastic aesthete and the harsh polemicist: Read More


The New Yorker’s First Art Critic, Murdock Pemberton, Championed Modern Art, Invented Cocktails

Mr. Pemberton circa 1915. (The Ladder)

Over in The Boston Globe, art critic Sebastian Smee has a great review of a new book called Portrait of Murdock Pemberton: The New Yorker’s First Art Critic, which sounds wonderful.

It seems that Pemberton’s granddaughter, Sally Pemberton, came across “several suitcases stuffed with clippings, exhibition catalogs, photographs (including by Man Ray), letters (from Stieglitz, among others), and an unpublished memoir” in her mother’s attic, and the book was born. Read More